Holiday Beauty Gift Guide

With a few days until Hanukah and Christmas Day, let the mad dash for last minute gifts begin. I have created a helpful and inexpensive guide to some gift ideas for the beauty lovers on your list. Remember, gifts should really have thought behind them. It’s easy to pick something up, add it to your cart and check someone off your list; however, does it symbolize who they are, how well you know the person or how much you care?  Gifts shouldn’t have to show off how much money you have but rather the time you took to know what someone may want, like or find useful.

 These are a few of my favorite things…”

Sephora Collection Breakups to Makeup Glitter Gold & Everything Bold Bag ($18) –Breakups to Makeup is one of those cult brands I have been following for quite some time. They create these beauty accessories with cute sayings like “Love raised me lipstick saved me.” The CEO is an amazing Latina who has made her brand flourish. Now her clutches can be found on Sephora’s shelves. Love them! (Sephora)

Benefit Cosmetics 1st Prize Highlighters ($18) – Benefit was the first brand I knew promoted the use of highlighters some 15 years ago. My sister was getting married and I went to their counter to get recommendation for the big event. The sales person pulled out this little bottle of High Beam and proceeded to make two small Xs on the high points of my cheek. I thought she was weird, the product was dumb and it didn’t make any sense why anyone would want to have any kind of BEAM on their face. WOW…was I ever wrong! “Beam me up, Scotty…” (Sephora, Ulta)

Real Techniques 6 Miracle Sponge Set ($20) – I recently posted how wonderful the Real Technique complexion sponge is. Now you can get a set of 6 for the price of 1 Beauty Blender. The set comes with various sized sponges. (Real Techniques)

Sephora Favorites, Give Me Some Bold Lip ($28) – The set includes a few popular bold lippies in sample size. It’s a sweet sampler gift to pique a lipstick lover’s appetite. (Sephora)

L’Occitane Hand Cream Trio ($28) – It’s L’Occitane! Nuff Said… (Sephora)

Caudalie Favorites ($39) – Caudalie is a brand introduced to me in recent years. They are a luxury skincare line and you can truly feel the richness of their products. This is a set of 6 travel sized beloved products. (Sephora)

Korres Greek Yoghurt Winter Skin Rescue ($39) – This set is ideal for those who maybe suffering from dehydrated or parched skin during these winter months. The key ingredient used is Yogurt, a moisturizing agent that provides vitamins and minerals to the skin. (Sephora)

Too Faced Sweet Peach Eye Shadow Palette ($49) – This brand happens to be one of my favorites EVER! Too Faced has some of the prettiest and most popular eyeshadow palettes. This particular palette has been on my radar since last spring but sold out before I could even pull out my wallet. NOT THIS TIME! This palette would make any makeup lover drool. (Sephora)

Kat Von D Everlasting Mini Liquid Lipstick Set ($49) – Great brand, great set, great lippies. I can’t say enough about Kat Von D liquid lipsticks. They are great! This set includes 6 minis. (Sephora)

Bobbi Brown Bobbi To Glow Shimmer Brick Palette ($51.50) – Three famous highlighters all in one palette. You can’t go wrong with giving a gift of The Glow! (Sephora)

Peter Thomas Roth Mask-A-Holic 5 Piece Kit ($75) – I love face masks and Peter Thomas Roth makes some amazing ones. This set is extremely well priced, as you are getting 5 jars to try. The 24k one has been recommended to me by many makeup artists who actually use it to provide a golden dewy complexion. (Sephora)

I set out to be as cost conscious as possible.  As I’ve said before, no need to sacrifice the pockets for good beauty products. I hope this list provided some help and guidance. Until next time, my beauties!

Wishing you all the Happiest of Holidays filled with love, laughter and highlight!

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The Lipstick

“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.” – Elizabeth Taylor

According to research *coughWikipedia* the origins of lipstick can be traced back to Ancient Sumerians, 5,000 years ago. The Sumerians would use crushed gemstones to decorate their faces. Ancient Egyptians used red lips to represent a social status symbol, used by both men and women. The infamous Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra, was believed to use pigments from crushed bugs to create red lips. If you are thinking to yourself “Eww…bugs,” the practice was used well into the 19th century. In the US, lipsticks got their color from a dye called Carmine. Carmine was extracted from scale insects called Cochineal. Aren’t you glad they moved to much better ingredients?

During the early 20th Century, color shades were limited with dark lips being the most popular. During the Flapper trend, the dark lip was a symbol of independence and freedom. In the 1930s, lipstick was a symbol of sexuality. Young women believed lipstick was a symbol of womanhood. Adversely, parents viewed the use as an act of rebellion. Many immigrant cultures prohibited the use of lipstick by their teenaged daughters. During the 50s, starlets like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor really popularized the dark red lips. Since many parents were still uncomfortable with the widespread of this trend, companies began creating pink and peach tones, becoming more widely acceptable and popular to use lipstick.

The 60s had the white lips trend made popular by girl musical groups like the Ronettes and the Shirelles. The 70s saw a surge of iridescent colors, greens and silvers. With the emergence of the Punk culture in the late 70s, came the black lips trend. The popularity of the black lipstick could be seen well into the 90s.  Previously regarded for the use of little girls, the 80s brought about the use of lipgloss. The 90s gave us various shades of brown and what I like to call the Chola look (deep brown lipliner accompanied by a nude lips). The 21st Century has brought us the popularity of the nude lipstick, bright bold colors and the current liquid lipstick craze.

I have always viewed the lipstick as a symbol of femininity, individuality and strength. It took me many years to feel comfortable wearing a bright, bold red; however, once I got over the shyness and embraced the feminine power, there was no stopping me. From a nude to the trendy ox blood hue, there’s very little I shy away from now. My first experience with a bold red was at 26 and with the famous Russian Red from MAC. No better red to try with. Russian Red is a blue based, matte red. It was a color made popular by  Madonna during her Blonde Ambition Tour. This red makes you look and feel like an old Hollywood Star.

MACs Russian Red and her sister Ruby Woo (another popular red) are very matte formulas. I would recommend scrubbing your lips prior to application. This process helps slough off any dry or chapped particles from your lips, leaving your lips smooth. Once you have scrubbed, add a light amount of lip balm or moisturizer. Matte formulas can be uncomfortable when you first apply. It took me sometime to get used to the formula. Now,  it seems like all I ever wear are mattes. It’s all a matter of getting used to.

My favorite lipstick of all time has been the Guerlain Rouge G lipstick in the color Gala (21). Encased in a jewel toned tube with a built-in mirror, it is a gorgeous and creamy medium red. The formula has a glossy finish. I was so in love with this red. It was introduced to me by representatives of Guerlain at Sephora showcasing their new products. The salesman walked up to me and said “I have something for you.” He was not lying. This red is a stunner! Probably the only lipstick I have worn to the very bottom of the tube. Even its steep price of $52.00 didn’t stop me from repurchasing. Sadly, they discontinued Gala. I went into a beauty depression when I found out. One day,  I went looking for it and no one could explain the sudden unavailability of this color. No note, no good bye, no chance to buy every single existing tube in the whole of NYC. This happens often, you fall in love with a color or a makeup line or product and suddenly, it’s pulled off the shelf, never to be seen again. You wander the earth like David Carradine in King Fu, searching for a near exact match to replace your beloved product, but nothing ever comes close [Sigh…shout out to Chanel Lip Glossimer in Satinette].

Here’s a list of a few other beloved lipsticks and brands I can’t do without:

Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick ($21) in Underage

Kylie Cosmetics Lip Kit ($29) in 22

 Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick ($20) in Vampira, Lolita, Bow n Arrow

Smashbox Always On Matte Liquid Lipstick ($24) in Bawse

Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick ($20) in Sad Girl

Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil ($26) in Damned, Dragon Girl

Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick ($21) in Femme Fatale Matte

Shiseido Lacquer Rouge ($25) in RD 607

Lipsticks are amongst my favorite beauty products to buy, own and play with. It is a must-have for every makeup lover, whether it’s a nude, a light pastel or a bold, dark color.  No face is complete without a good lipstick. The use of the lipstick dates back to Ancient Sumeria and early civilization. Next time you go to the store and find yourself debating whether you should buy that lipstick, remind yourself that Ancient Egyptians used it as a symbol of status. Buy it QUEEN!

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Drugstore Treasures

We all can agree that Sephora is a Wonderland for Cosmetics and Beauty Products. I like to envision myself in the middle of the store, spinning around like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.  It’s just divine to walk in and down the aisles. To need absolutely nothing and walk out with 3-4 items you never even knew you needed, that’s Magic! On the other hand, the beauty section in large department stores scare me. You have people coming out from different angles offering to spritz you with all kinds of scents, the haze from them all ensnaring you like a Venus Flytrap. The counter ladies all wanting you to try their products… it’s just too much for me. But one place I seem to always find joy is the local drugstore. The drugstore can be a treasure chest waiting to be explored.

Being a mother of two, I always find myself making at least one trip every weekend to the drugstore. Whether it be to pick up medicine for one of my cutesome-twosome, wipes, school supplies or even a quick card for a birthday party, there is always a trip to our neighborhood CVS or Walgreens. During these visits, I’m guaranteed to venture into the beauty aisle. They make it so appealing and convenient. It’s always the first area you see as soon as you enter. The marketing strategy works. It is bait for beauty addicts alike.

There are SO many brands, products and price ranges. There is an advantage to drugstore buys. You can use coupons, expect weekly sales and always find BOGO deals.  It’s too good to pass up. Besides, everyone wants to save where they can. Beauty shouldn’t have to break the bank. Right?? So, I put this theory to the test and did some investigating to see what goodies we could find. I wanted to see if I could actually ditch my higher end products for drugstore brands or dupes. I visited a local Duane Reade in NYC and purchased a few items. Here is a list of products purchased:

Base/ Foundation: I’m still wondering how I was able to pull off successfully color matching without testing the product. I have no clue. I have always been leery about shopping for drugstore foundation. At least in Sephora you have people able to assist you find a suitable match or you have testers available for your use. RULE OF THUMB: NEVER test on your hand! It is a common mistake. The skin tone on your hand varies from that of your face and neck due to sun exposure. Try your best at picking one closest to your natural skin tone. Most stores do have return policies because they know this choice can be difficult.

Cover Girl Clean Matte BB Cream (550) – I did like this BB Cream. It was very light and creamy on my skin and melted right in. Product retails for 8.99.

L’Oreal Paris Infallible Pro-Glow (208) – Good Foundation. Light and weightless, but can be buildable if you are looking for more coverage. Product retails for 12.99.

*I must add that although both bases were good, neither did much for my oily T-Zone problem. In fact, the BB Cream claims to be matte, however, my shiny nose begs to differ. I would recommend both products are best suited for those who do not have oily or combination skin like me.

Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge – AMAZING alternative to the popular Beauty Blender. Product retails for 3.57.


L.A. Girl PRO Concealer (Pure Beige) – I love this concealer. It is inexpensive and beloved by makeup artists. I cannot stress how good this concealer is. You can actually just use this to solve a lot of beauty problems, but we will save that discussion for another time. Product retails for 5.99.


NYC Individual Eyes Brown Eye Basics – This eye palette retails for about 4.99 and is absolutely fabulous. It had a combination of 4 powder shadows and 3 cream shadows. The powders were very well pigmented. I did not try the creams. My eye makeup came out pretty good and when I told a colleague at work I had used a drugstore product and the cost, she couldn’t believe it. It held up really well and I experienced no creasing or fall out.

Jordana Easy liner (Black) – Simple and inexpensive black eye liner. Does tend to bleed throughout the day. Product retails for 1.99.

Maybelline The Colossal Volume Express (Classic Black) – My new colleague suggested I use this mascara. I’ll admit to being a bit hesitant, especially considering how much I dislike the original Maybelline Great Lash Mascara. Some of you have just gasped in horror. I’m sorry, but I do not understand what all the hype is behind that cult classic. However, this mascara was amazing and I’m glad I took her word for it. It is HUGE and really layers the liquid on for a dramatic effect. Definitely a Must-Have. Product retails for 5.99.


Wet n Wild Coloricon Bronzer (Bikini Contest) – Shattered. Wish I could add a review but this literally shattered upon opening.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Bronzer (Park Avenue Princess) – I cheated and added a Sephora product, but in my defense, the product was free with my points. This was a small sample size of the Tarte Bronzer which retails for 30.00. It wasn’t as intense as I like my bronzers to be. I tried contouring but it wasn’t very effective for me. Boo. Whatever, it was free.

Milani Powder Blush (Romantic Rose) – Milani is one of my favorite drugstore brands. This blush is absolutely beautiful! The powder is shaped like a rose; just a lovely presentation. Milani never disappoints. This blush had good pigment and lasting effect. Product retails for 8.99.

Milani Easybrow (Natural Taupe) – A simple brow pencil with a spooly brush at the end. Did a good job. Product retails for 3.99.


Maybelline Colorsensational (Smoking Red) – The Colorsensational lipsticks are Maybelline’s famous seasonal lip color trends. I chose the color Smoking Red, a red with brown undertones. I really liked this lippy. It was hydrating, which I really like. The color was vibrant and bold, but will not last through lunch without you needing to  reapply. Product retails for 6.99.

All in all, I was really happy with the results from my drugstore beauty experience. The prices were reasonable and the products were good. I’m not exactly ready to say bye bye to Sephora but… I know I can make wiser buying choices for some things. The one disappointing factor I did discover was the lack of low-end highlighting products. I found one major brand carrying what they called a highlighter and it was a bit pricey for a drugstore buy. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know by now how much I LOVE to highlight. So, you can imagine I was not very happy about this. As an alternative, I used the highlighter from the eye shadow palette. It worked just fine and I didn’t have to shell out extra or carry out an additional product.

Beauty should not be compromised or sacrificed. Yes, EVERY woman is Beautiful. I firmly believe that. I also believe and know that women love to feel special. Looking good makes us feel special.  Babes on a budget can rest assure that there are comparable products out there that cost less and apply just as good as those pricey buys at Sephora or Department Stores. No need to get a second mortgage just to buy an eyeshadow palette, just walk into Walgreens. And for some of us corporate gals, if you find yourself in a pinch and need to jazz up for a meeting or after work drinks; realized you forgot to pack your makeup bag, head on over to the drugstore and pick up a few things with ease. Get your budget beauty on!

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The Curly Chronicles

Every naturally curly haired person knows the perpetual struggle to find the best products or “Holy Grail” for their coils. The journey can be frustrating, exhausting and expensive. With frizz as our arch nemesis, followed by his goons; knots & dryness. I have been an active participant in the search for the “fountain of curls.”  To those of you paying compliments to our bouncy ringlets; you have NO IDEA the amount of tears it has taken to get them this way.

In current times, the amounts of natural/curly hair products are limitless. Long ago, the problem was that there were barely any products available to help tame the mane. Nowadays, the problem is choosing the right ones to suite your personal curl pattern and needs. Do you shop by item or by collection? Do you shampoo, pre-poo or co-wash? Conditioner or Deep conditioner, etc… This can be as overwhelming, as not having any products.

I have been a member of the natural hair community for over four years. The experience has made it easier to know the kind of products my hair will like and react positively to. Sometimes it can be as simple as reading the ingredients on the label. Not to say that I don’t encounter a few setbacks now and again. Case in point: Recently, a good friend of mine gifted me some products that she found worked perfectly on her tresses. We had always been convinced we were curl twins, with almost the same exact pattern.  She wanted to share her new and exciting find with me. Sadly, the products were not effective for me and made me look as puffy as a cloud. She had good intentions (Thanks M)!

I have drawn up a curly girl’s guide for getting your hair to play nice, which I call Karen’s Guide to Curls and Coils:

  1. Pre-poo: The process before cleansing. This is a good time to apply your perfect hair oil to both scalp and shaft. This provides much needed moisture to our thirsty curls. Favorites: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Almond Oil, Tea Tree Oil.
  2. Shampoo: Many shampoos now are sulfate and paraben free, making them Curly Hair Friendly. Personally, I prefer Co-Washing. Co-washing is a clarifying conditioner, used to both wash and condition, without the harshness of shampoo. Shampoo tends to strip the hair of natural oils our hair produces. Favorites: As I Am Co-Wash, Matrix Biolage Cleansing Conditioner, Jasön Pure Natural Restorative Biotin Shampoo.
  3. Conditioner: I look for conditioners with great slippage. This helps with the detangling process. Use a wide tooth comb.  Favorites: Curls Coconut Sublime Conditioner, Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Deep Conditioner.
  4. Deep Conditioning: MOST IMPORTANT PROCESS. Deep conditioning is a necessity for textured and curly hair. Curls and coils are very fragile. Deep conditioning helps to strengthen the hair shaft. It helps mend split ends and promote hair growth. I recommend deep conditioning once a week. You’ll see the difference immediately.  Favorites: Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Deep Conditioner (YES, again), Mielle Babassu Oil & Mint Deep Conditioner, Soultanicals Curl Elastic Deep Conditioner, Silicon Mix Deep Conditioner
  5. DO NOT TOWEL DRY! Use a t-shirt. This limits the amount of frizz production.
  1. LOC
    • Leave-In Conditioner: Apply a good leave in conditioner throughout your hair. Favorites: Ouidad Moisture Lock
    • Oil: Apply a light oil to seal the conditioner and avoid moisture. I prefer a light silicon based oil, as anything to thick can weigh my hair down.
    • Favorite: Fantasia IC Hair Polish with Olive Oil Moisturizing.
    • Cream/Styler: Use your favorite curl styler.  Favorites: Curls Berry Bliss Gel, DevaCurl Super Cream Coconut Curl Styler, Uncle Funky’s Daughter Curly Magic Curl Stimulator
  1. Diffuser or Air Dry: I like a combination of the two. First I air dry for about an hour (if I got that kind of time), then I use my diffuser. I prefer the bouncy, voluminous results from the diffuser. Air drying leaves my hair a bit limp. With air drying, I use a hair pick to create the definition I get with the diffuser.
  1. NO TOUCHING! This is hard, I know, but your hands only create more frizzy results. We are trying to avoid that at all cost.
  1. Nighttime Routine: I like to wear my hair up in a pineapple style (gather all your hair high above your head towards the front, tie once with a band or scrunchy). Sleep with a silk or satin pillow. This helps to avoid breakage or snags.
  1. Refresh: To revive your curls, use a spritz bottle filled with water, your favorite conditioner and a small drop of oil. Run a dime size amount of Leave-In Conditioner through your hair.
  1. Cutting your ends regularly is important, as well as taking multi-vitamins.

Natural/Curly hair is beautiful, but it does take time and patience to find the formula that provides the results you want. At times, it can be frustrating, but there are many protective styles you can try as an alternative. These styles involve low manipulation and can really help. Youtube is a haven for videos and tutorials on protective styles. Give it a try. And don’t give up! It is so well worth it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

*I am grateful for my family and friends who read and support my blog and all my posts. Blessings to you all!

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Beauty in Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of the year. New York during this time is like a magical dream filled with arrays of earth tones; rich reds, burnt oranges, golden yellows and rich browns. Albeit, the weather is crisp and often cold, some of us don’t mind. There is beauty in these colors. And if you’re really bothered by the cold, slip into an oversize cozy sweater, grab some hot chocolate and bear witness to the beauty of fall.

*Skin Care

We’ve talked about moisturizing in previous posts. If there is ever a better time to start a skin regimen, it’s now. Keep your skin extra hydrated during this time. As the temperature dips, your skin can take a huge beating. Moisturize regularly and keep hydrated. Drinks loads of water; your skin will thank you for it.


Fall makeup trends resemble the season with rich, beautiful, earthy hues. When it comes to looks, my personal preference is to make a bold statement with my eyes, accompanied by a simple and minimal look for the cheeks and lips. OR, you can also do a very dark and bold lip, using natural tones for the eyes and cheeks. Cheeks should remain a nice, natural flush.

Nude lips have also been on the go-to list this season. I recommend getting help finding the perfect nude. I’ve always tried picking them out myself, but never loving the actual outcome. If picked incorrectly, you can end up looking pale or bland.  After many unsuccessful tries at nudes, I walked into Sephora and begged a sales associate to help me pick the “right” nude for me. We chose a creamy shade from Make Up For Ever (#C107) and paired it with a matching lip liner from Sephora’s collection (rosewood).GORGE! It has a subtle hint of mauve, but presents very naturally.

Season Colors: cranberry, oxblood, metallic gold, burnt orange, chocolate brown, taupe


Kat Von D, Raw Power (eyeshadow single)

Anastasia Beverly Hills, Modern Renaissance Palette (eyeshadow)

Kylie Cosmetic, Burgundy Palette (eyeshadow)

Tarte, Tartelette Amazionian Clay MattePalette (eyeshadow)

Urban Decay, Naked and Naked 2 Palette

Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick, Femme Fatale (lips)

MAC, Rebel (lips)

Shiseido Laquer Rouge, RD607 (lips)

L’Oreal, Nude Ballet (lips)

Make Up For Ever Artist Rouge Creme, C107


With fall come warmer, smokier scents. This is the time I put away my favorite light, floral or citric scents. There are people who are loyalist and keep to their signature scent 365 days of the year. That’s fine! If you’re like me, you have your staples, but they vary to match the seasons.  My personal favorite is YSL Black Opium. This scent mixes coffee accord, orange blossom, cedarwood and patchouli to create a warm and sexy fragrance.

Scents: Warm, Smokey, Musk, Cedarwood, Patchouli, Vanilla, Oakwood


Yves Saint Laurent, Black Opium

Prada, Candy

Calvin Klein, Euphoria

Dolce & Gabbana, The One

Elizabeth James, Nirvana Bourbon *New* 

Fall in New York is a busy time for fashion trends. We are inspired by the rich colors around us. The colder air doesn’t deter us from making fashion or beauty choices, but rather, aides in providing the canvas to create our own beauty statement.

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A Curly Haired Girl and the Unicorn

When I began dating my husband, almost two decades ago, he would always say things like, “I love your curly hair,” “You should let your hair out,” or “Your hair makes you look wild. I like it!” My response was always a quick giggle and I’d swiftly change the subject. I did not want to hear anything about curly hair. Curls just were not my thing. To me, they never came out right or looked coily enough, so I just ditched the idea and got weekly blow outs.

Throughout my life, I struggled with the image of what beauty was. For most of that time, it did not include a head of curly hair. To my defense, the market was flooded with images of straight, glossy hair and little to no products to tame this wildebeest on my head. I still remember being made fun of in school, especially during those rainy or humid days, when the animal stirred. My poor mother struggled. We tried it all; hot comb on the stovetop, wired hot comb, mom-made rollers with a dryer that looked like a space contraption and finally, the inevitable… The Relaxer. I was told it was the best and “only” way to quiet the beast.

Back in the days, Paul Mitchell and Sammy were amongst the first brands that brought along some change for curly heads. Their initial products were filled with so much alcohol; however, the move generated signs of hope. With the emergence of these products, I remained undeterred from my quarterly relaxers, but they did strike a nerve. Those first days of trial were HORRIBLE! It takes time to figure out a product. If you follow the package directions, they always say use a “dime size” or a “dollop” amount. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?? DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH HAIR IS UNDER HERE?? ME NEITHER!!!

In college, I met a unicorn who would help change my view. This mythical creature came galloping into my Philosophy class with the biggest head of curls I had ever seen. She had attitude, a cascade of dark brown hair and a name I could barely pronounce. It would take months before I could properly say her name and realize the initial attitude she strode in with was just a lame gimmick. She was actually more Queen Geek than Queen Swag…lol!

My new friend was super smart, full of confidence and believed her hair had super powers. She felt very much like Samson from the biblical story Samson and Delilah. She did not straighten her hair, unless for a special and rare occasion. She did not believe in the hair salon. Those trips always lead to TWO hairdressers tugging simultaneously at her head. On regular days, a normal hair band did not grasp this great head of hair. She would use this coily, shoe lace looking gadget. I’m pretty sure it held magical strength.

During the summer months, when I found it too hot for a salon and would forego my visits for my less than impressive curls, the unicorn would say, “I like when you leave your hair curly.” I would then regress to self-deprecating comments and eye rolls. With time, my friendship with the unicorn would deepen and so would my relationship with my hair.

In the fall of 2007, five years after we first met, the unicorn dropped a bomb on me; she had found a marble sized lump in her breast and was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was distraught. I was in complete shock. We were only 27 years old. I was five months pregnant with my first child. We don’t get breast cancer at this age. That just doesn’t happen! She was in her second year of law school. It just can’t happen. What did this mean?

While we grieved around her, my friend dismissed all chances of failure or defeat. She underwent a double mastectomy, chemo therapy and radiation like a true champ. Rather than go through the torment of watching her tendrils fall away, she did the bravest thing ever, she buzzed it all off. Those days seem so long ago in my mind.

It would be a long 4 years of pain, tears and more laughter than one would expect from the situation. Her cancer eventually spread and in the winter of 2012, she was told there was nothing they could do for her but make her last days comfortable. I immediately rushed to her side to be with her. It was around this same time that I stopped visiting the hair salon to straighten my hair. I began searching for products that would allow me to “fuss” less with my hair and spend more time on important things, such as preparing to say goodbye to someone who had become an important part of my life.

One day while visiting her, I remember telling her, “You know, I have been wearing my hair curly in Homage [pronounced ohhh-mage…it would always make us crack-up] to you.” She responded with a big smile and her signature response, “Ayooooo!” Thus began my transition. I quit the salons and blow dryers cold turkey. It was not a pretty transition. I did not do the “Big Chop,” but I did have to submit to the scissors and cut off a lot of heat damaged ends.

I began to embrace my new found hair. I loved the freedom it brought me and the questions that were always asked like, “Is that really all yours,” “Can I touch it?” It was nice not worrying about humidity and rain or the hours in the hair salon with rollers, under a dryer or waiting for my turn to be burnt crisp at the end of a blow dryer.

It has been over 4 years since I gave up the “straight life.” I admit to rare visits to the salon for a wash and set, but I much prefer my wash and go, instead. I’m so proud of my head of hair. It is such a part of my character and my identity. Being natural is extremely important to me. It is my badge of honor, a gift from my ancestors and my culture. It shows my children how proud I am to look the way I do and how confidant I am in my own skin.

My biggest curl supporter is still my husband. He recently found some old videos of us and I couldn’t help but cringe at how fried my hair looked. I made him shove those videos back in the garage. I’d like to pretend I have always loved my hair, but hey…we all have a story. The journey to self discovery must begin somewhere.

I dedicate this blog post to my unicorn, Yadisa Disla, the curliest headed girl I have ever met. She lost her battle to Breast Cancer on May 30th, 2012. Halloween was our favorite time of year, so it is fitting that I should post this today in her honor. You were a mystical creature, whose laughter and spirit will be forever missed. I love you my bone pony!

Breast Cancer is a real threat to women throughout lines of color, language, religion and financial means. As we draw a close to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, support the cause however you can. We all know someone who has been affected. Help the Fight!

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Gold, Sparkle and Shine…I Heart Highlighters

“Shine Bright like a diamond…” I’m pretty sure Rih Rih was talking about Highlighting! Highlighting is all the rave these days [. . .] and rightfully so. Highlighting is the process of illuminating portions of your face and décolletage. It’s a process that goes hand-in-hand with Contouring. I don’t know if it’s the Leo in me, but Gold shimmer is a must AT ALL TIMES.

The key areas to add Highlight are the following:

Eyes: Applied to the brow bone to define and lift the eyebrows. Can be applied in the inner corners of the eye to perk up the eyes or create a wide-awake look.

Lip: Applied at the Cupid’s bow to create the appearance of fuller or bigger lips.

Chin: Applied to the chin to accentuate the chin and also helps create the appearance of fuller lips.

Forehead: Applied to the center of the forehead and used to accentuate and help bring dimension

Nose: Applied down the bridge of the nose to help create the appearance of a straighter nose.

*Cheek: *Piéce De Résistance* Applied to the tops of the [cheekbones] to accentuate or lift the cheekbone.

If applied correctly, accompanied by a good bronzer, it really does a great job of adding dimension and shape to the face. But because this entry is about Highlighting and not Contouring, it’s fair to move on to the key places to dust a good shine on. My personal favorites are the nose, the brow bone and the cheeks.

[I think this is a good place to pause and remind everyone of what my blog goal is.] Many of you, new friends and old friends, have come to me [for guidance] about makeup, makeup application and usage. I am all for a full face – contoured and beat down. I really am! However, I do [primarily] write for those who don’t know what to do, where to start or how to finish. So, I feel it would be unfair to tell you all to go buck wild and Contour and Highlight the shit out of your pretty faces. I’m just trying to [provide] some ideas and a glimpse of what can be done, while always keeping in mind the busy, working woman or man, the mom and the makeup novice. So, thank you for coming to me! With that said…I will continue.

FAVORITES: With my new obsession for Highlighters, I have hoarded quite a few. I won’t mention all of them, just the MVPs.

Becca, Shimmering Skin Perfector($38) – Champagne Pop

Benefit Cosmetics, Watt’s Up! Cream to Powder Highlighter ($30)

Anastasia Beverly Hills, Illuminator ($28) – Peach Nectar 

Laura Gellar, Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator ($26) – Gilded Honey

 Cover FX, Custom Enhancer Drops (Liquid Metal) ($42) – Sunlight

On days when I’m short of time or just not into a full face look, you can be sure, I will still reach for any one of these. And if I really want to look like a member of The Cullen Family (a little Twilight humor), I may use a few layered together.  Don’t we all want that natural JLo or Lupita Nyong’o radiance? I know I sure do!

A good Highlighter can provide a subtle, radiant and youthful glow to the skin. It can also cast a light so bright, it can be seen from outer space (for the not-so shy users). The market is buzzing with all kinds of Highlighters. You can find them in gold, silver, pink and even rainbow hued. Do some research and try some on. You’ll see for yourself how beautiful they really are.

Next time I see you, I may need sunglasses to block the glare [wink].

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